Context: The clinical and etiologic relation between autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and schizophrenia is unclear. The degree to which these disorders share a basis in etiology has important implications for clinicians, researchers, and those affected by the disorders.
Objective: To determine whether a family history of schizophrenia and/or bipolar disorder is a risk factor for ASD.
Design, setting, and participants: We conducted a case-control evaluation of histories of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder in first-degree relatives of probands in 3 samples—population registers in Sweden, Stockholm County (in Sweden), and Israel. Probands met criteria for ASD, and affection status of parents and siblings for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder were established.
Results: The presence of schizophrenia in parents was associated with an increased risk for ASD in a Swedish national cohort (odds ratio [OR], 2.9; 95% CI, 2.5-3.4) and a Stockholm County cohort (OR, 2.9; 95% CI, 2.0-4.1). Similarly, schizophrenia in a sibling was associated with an increased risk for ASD in a Swedish national cohort (OR, 2.6; 95% CI, 2.0-3.2) and an Israeli conscription cohort (OR, 12.1; 95% CI, 4.5-32.0). Bipolar disorder showed a similar pattern of associations but of lesser magnitude.
Conclusions: Findings from these 3 registers along with consistent findings from a similar study in Denmark suggest that ASD, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder share common etiologic factors.